Okay. So we are all aware of the state of our planet by now. Plastic in the ocean (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en4XzfR0FE8), giant oil spills, dependency on petroleum products that are quickly running out, global climate change etc etc etc. One of the arguments I have held fast to for many years is that all the bad news is so disheartening that I simply didn't know where to start; especially living in small apartment spaces. (Most sustainable options call for a large garden space and a house). So, I'm compiling a list of ways that us apartment and small space renters can help reduce our negative impact on our environment, beyond recycling (which has been contested by some, including the famous Penn and Teller's Bullshit episode - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzLebC0mjCQ).
#1 Potted plants: grow your own food! Herbs and salad greens and even fruit such as lettuce, strawberries, oregano, and thyme are easy to grow in indoor pots or window boxes, and out on your deck. You can easily find information on how to grow your own edible and medicinal herbs, and even how to prepare them all over the internet. If you're into making your own medicine, I recommend http://www.learningherbs.com/. They have an excellent, easy to understand course and you can join their mailing list for new recipes every week.
#2 Compost: DIY compost bins:
You can use dew / bait worms or earth worms just as easily as red wigglers, and add a little soil in the mix! I keep mine out on the deck and use the compost for my deck garden.
#3 Turn the lights down low: hand wash your dishes or only run your dishwasher when full, keep the thermostat low by layering up in the winter instead. I'm sure we're all doing this already anyways to keep our bills low, right?
#4 Water waste reduction: adapt your toilet to reduce the amount of water used when flushing by putting a device in the tank to displace some of the water (something as simple as a milk jug filled with pebbles). I've seen this done with empty plastic tobacco cannisters - they are the perfect size. You can buy add ons for your toilet from your local hardware store as well, generally your landlord won't complain as long as you can undo your modifications before you move out (or convince your landlord to upgrade all the apartments?). You don't need to go out and buy a whole new toilet. If you're going to do that, you might as well get a composting toilet! Or you could always try the 'if it's yellow let it mellow' rule.
#5 Use less plastic: Get a reusable stainless steel or glass bottle for your drinks! There are tons of reusable water bottles and travel mugs in you local grocery store these days! Use a lunch pail and reusable sandwich bags! Bring them with you when you go out to eat and ask the server to pack your leftovers in them. Remember to bring your tote bags with you when you go shopping! You could even make your own. There are also biodegradable dog-poop bags - please pick up after your pet! There are a ton of eco-friendly products available these days, even biodegradable pens!
How about a list of eco-friendly crafts you can do with the kids and your friends?
David Suzuki has also recently done an excellent series with his daughter about new technologies and ideas that give hope called 'The Suzuki Diaries':
Anyone else got ideas? Let me know!